As the world goes more digital, small medical businesses are in a great position. You no longer have to buy your essential equipment and supplies from your local distributor.
A whole world of suppliers is at your fingertips online. This means that you can get better quality equipment at a better price, if you know where to look!
Know Your Needs
Before you start looking at potential suppliers, it’s important that you know exactly what your needs are. There will be suppliers out there in a multitude of different sizes, each with their own pros and cons. It’s essential that you know exactly what your needs are so that you aren’t dazzled by a seemingly great supplier, only to find that they can’t deliver for you.
Some things to consider:
- What items are you buying on a regular basis, and what items do you buy less often? Your core supplier should stock the items that you buy regularly, but you could use a dedicated supplier for items that are a little more niche.
- What quantities can you buy? Take into account both your budget and your storage capacity. Some suppliers will only want to sell in bulk, and if you can’t buy that much at a time then this rules them out.
- Where do you need your goods to be shipped to? Not all suppliers will be able to ship everywhere, and if they can’t ship to you then this is a deal breaker!
Find a Trusted Supplier
Once you know what you will be buying, how often and in what quantities, you can start narrowing down your choice of supplier.
Often the most reliable way to find a reputable supplier is to ask around. Use your industry contacts to find out which suppliers others in your industry are using, and what their experiences have been like.
Alternatively, you could find out the names of some suppliers that look like they will fit the bill by searching online. Then you can do your due diligence to see if they are as good as they look! Ask them to provide you with references from their current customers, and if possible see if you can have a quick meeting (over the phone or online is fine) to see what they think of your potential supplier. You can also utilize online resources such as Trustpilot, where people leave reviews of the businesses they have dealt with.
Finally, you can’t underestimate the value of a site visit. This is worth doing, especially if the supply contract is a large one. Take the time to visit the premises of your potential supplier and form your own impressions of how they run their business.
It’s a worthwhile exercise to do your research on a ‘backup’ supplier, particularly for your core items. If your chosen supplier suddenly can’t provide you with what you need for some reason, you need to have a backup option in order to ensure that you can still run your business.
A further way to mitigate risk is to try and order stock well in advance of when you actually need it where possible, although of course this isn’t always possible for items with a short shelf life, or if there are storage and budgetary constraints.
Once you have a shortlist of reliable suppliers that can provide the services you need, it’s time to narrow your search further.
Get quotes from your potential suppliers and see if they will offer discounts for things like repeat and bulk orders. Don’t assume that the price quoted on their website is the final price. Suppliers like medical-supermarket.com note on their site that they offer discounts to their customers, so this is certainly something worth exploring.
Suppliers may also be able to offer you alternative brands at a lower price than the one you are used to. If this is the case, be sure to be diligent in checking that the cheaper alternative is as fit for purpose as the product you usually use. There is absolutely no point in saving money if it’s going to potentially affect the care you provide and damage your reputation!
Finally, check the stock levels of your chosen suppliers for your key items. If they are going to struggle with getting you what you need, when you need it, then they aren’t the supplier for you.
Some suppliers work on a ‘drop shipping’ basis, which means that they don’t actually hold any stock themselves, but instead fulfil orders through a third party. This isn’t usually an issue, but be sure that you understand how the supplier you work with is going to meet your needs, and that you are happy they are equipped to do so.